Vagneur: Where better to wind down than Aspen? |

Vagneur: Where better to wind down than Aspen?

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore

It’s that light at the end of day when the long shadows of early evening begin to fall, that lilting sunlight with a golden hue that only a few days of rain can induce and we gathered like all folks do, a couple here and then a big group there and brief but sincere introductions all around, backs slapped, growls of pleasure emitted and then the party began.

Cushioned from the creek by a thick stand of decades-old cottonwoods, the well-manicured lawn, with its birdbaths, flower gardens and native shrubs, led up to an Italian veranda of large and flawless design, encircled by large stone benches and pillars, the roof buttressed by very heavy timbers.

Most of the large group was a contingent of Argentina wedding survivors, in their late 20s, chilling out from the event for four or five days in Aspen. Two of the group were Aspen natives, including the groom, and most of the young men, if they didn’t grow up here, had all attend Tulane University, the well-known educational hub of the Big Easy. Where better to wind down than Aspen?

It was a curious and polite group of young people who took over the portico. Our host and hostess’s son and daughter, Cooks and Dylan, are like me, Woody Creek natives, but much younger, and my partner Margaret went to Tulane so there was a lot to get the conversations started. In no time the porch held a close-knit kaleidoscope of people, most of whom had just moments before been strangers to each other.

And over the buzz of the long, well-set dinner table, one of the Tulane boys could be heard tasking, appropriately, “Where did you guys get married?” The noise quieted and all eyes were on the host. “We got married in John Denver’s house,” came the simple reply. No oohs and aahs, no one said “far out”, but there was an unspoken, murmured request for more.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a John Denver fan, we were at the host’s table and he continued on, with a little prodding, about the relationship he, his wife and John had together. It wasn’t about how cool it was to hang around with John but more how the host and John had forged a friendship over the years, going on fishing and camping trips, being invited to sit in the owner’s box at Mile High for a Broncos game and then heading across the street to McDonald’s for a good dinner. Stuff like that.

Just like ski bums everywhere, a ringers list from the 70s consisting of Bob Beattie, Bill Braun, Warren Miller, Scotty Wheeler, John Denver, Tom Crum, Crow Straka and maybe a few more headed to Canada for some heli-skiing at the newly-formed Mike Wiegele’s heli-skiing operation.

Our hostess, who had a few stories of her own, had taken her cue and soon John Denver songs floated softly over the speaker system, and these young men, on the cusp of creating their own marks on the world, part of a generation that is not sure if it remembers Denver, gave rapt attention to the stories being told, throwing in some of their own observations from time to time.

If you’ve ever been on one of those heli-skiing trips, you know that to ski your butt off all day in untracked powder is, without a doubt, a sweaty proposition and the first thing you want at the end of the day is a leisurely, hot shower. Wiegele hadn’t yet gotten the bugs out of his accommodations and our host recounted that if, during their trip, you were hungry for a hot shower, the unfulfilling reward was a scant dousing with cold water, “two or three drops,” as he put it. But hey, it’s not every day that you become immortalized by Warren Miller. Suffice it to say, Denver, even emerging from the sauna (the one hot spot) with a towel draped over his head, couldn’t remain incognito.

And through it all, the sun fell behind the horizon, the candles flickered in the cool breeze of late summer and the dessert may have been the culinary highlight of the evening, although others may disagree. Some people scattered here and there throughout the house, more stories were told between those of us still at the table and eventually, the night became still.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at

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